How the UX Writers Team of Tokopedia Created UX Writing Guideline

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Have your ever been wondered what writing formats should be used in all designs? Have your mind twisted which addressing is correct for users? Have you ever dwelled with stakeholders about capitalization? Well, it’s time for you to create a guideline.

I recently checked my Medium feed to read references in terms of product design. There are some articles that discuss inconsistency. I think I need to share my story related to inconsistency in UX writing too. Ok, let’s jump to the problem.

My UX writer friends and I used to experience confusion. We were confused about writing format to be applied to our microcopy. We asked everyone the correct writing but again, were confused. I guess making notes on Slack also won’t help. Thus, learning from this experience, we initiated to create a guideline called UX Writing Playbook to standardize copywriting. We feel that UX writer should have sense of consistency too.

At first, we didn’t know where to start. We asked ourselves and consulted with our product designer friends (especially the UI team) to find out what cases that may be found in copywriting. Our Head of Product also got a suggestion from the business team that they needed UXW guideline so that their writing can be in line with us. Ok, totally agree! We then wrapped up some of the cases:

  • Capitalization
  • Addressing
  • Date & Time
  • Abbreviation
  • Pricing & Currency
  • Error messages

These lists, according to our stakeholders, are important. The stakeholders need our help to maintain the microcopy occurs in their product. I would also say that UX writing might not only about thinking of the microcopy that aligns with branding but also visualization.

So, how did we do to provide the guideline based on the lists we collected? To begin with, we had a weekly meeting to discuss what topics we wanted to include in the guideline (first batch). We also browsed another UX writing online guideline for inspiration. Then, we began to include tone of voice first since this is our writing principle. After that, we continued to include capitalization and others. Case by case every week. Honestly, it was not an easy process because we had a lot of meetings and tasks. In product division, we work as a contributor. You can say we’re not dedicated to specific teams/tribes. So, 1 UXW can handle 2–4 teams/tribes. But, in this project, as much as possible we needed to have a weekly sync-up. We created this guideline for all. Ok, here’s the sneak peak of our guideline:

Image 1: First page + Cover
Image 3: Content overview
Image 4: Quick access on Docs
Image 5: Provide CTA link that redirects to another content (quick access)

For now, we prefer to use Google Docs as the playform of the guideline because it is easy to use and shareable. We also have compiled all writing cases and are still updating it until now. But, we feel that not many stakeholders open the guideline. We assume that Google Docs will turn to be heavy if the pages are many. This is the challenge. So, to make it (somewhat) seamless, we provide CTA in the introduction to suggest stakeholders use quick-access icon. So, they only scroll and click the section they want to see (please see Image 3). In the future, we’re planning to improve the content (maybe, make it public?) so that stakeholders can use it easily anytime.

UX writing guideline, in my opinion, is helpful for stakeholders, especially business, designers, and developers when they need to craft microcopy alone. In my case, sometimes stakeholders need urgent copy from the UXW team. But, the team may also have big tasks to finish at that time, so they’re afraid if they cannot help the stakeholders. So, we suggest our stakeholders to provide their own copy if it only contains brief information, for example on ticker or push notification. We make sure they have referred to our guideline in terms of tone of voice, writing format, char/line, or glossary. If they still need our review (just to double check), we gladly want to help. They can reach us through Slack.

Creating UX writing guideline is a good opportunity for your team because it has a purpose to educate others with consistency. Apart from the guideline I have shown you, every team has their own way to create a guideline but in my team, this is what we did:

  • Conduct an internal discussion (of timeline, topic, and worksheet) first; don’t forget make MOM to re-read the discussion
  • Gather concerns of copywriting from stakeholders and list down what topics should be included
  • Explore another UX writing guideline to see how they deliver the content (ex: Gojek, Mail chimp, or Uber)
  • Define the contributors (who writes what)
  • Have weekly sync-up (to give updates of your progress)
  • Review the content together (plus, help your friends when they’re confused with the content they’ve written)
  • Publish the guideline to your communication channel (group) consists of stakeholders if it’s (partly) done (p.s. at least, you have included all use cases.)

Not only that, we also have some tips that may be useful for you:

  • #1: It’ll be better if you & team (completely) agree with the copywriting rules (ex: using ampersand for very limited space, using Rp instead IDR, etc)–remember, guideline is standardization
  • #2: Set a reminder on Google Calendar when to start and finish the content in a week (make project schedule as a tracker)
  • #3: Provide screenshots in your guideline and make pointers (if needed) + use emojis to emphasize particular topics
  • #4: Personalize the URL/link so that stakeholders want to read and use your guideline (if you write it online via Google Docs or other platforms)

How is the result? This guideline receives a good feedback from stakeholders. I am happy because it means the guideline has helped them in providing a copy alone although some Slack us if they still have confusion. It’s okay because that’s what we always do as a UX writer. Our stakeholders probably are not the expert, so we should help them. :)

I want to thank Momo, Saviq, Salsa, Winona, Fahri, Judho, Nida, and Rayi to make it happen & better together.




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